I grew up in the 1970's and came of age in the 80's, which means all the toys I had are being brought back as Retro and making me feel sod-all old. However, I still HAVE a lot of those toys, so if I ever have kids, they can whine about the museum pieces I won't allow them to touch.
(Hey, I'm an only child--I never had to share, dammit, why start now?)
I even have the sock monkey my mother made me and stuffed with old nylons. OK, maybe Mum isn't the only one with a slight hoarding problem, but mine is improving. I promise. Besides, my shit is actually collectible. (Why am I hearing George Carlin's "Place for My Stuff" routine in my head... "Ever notice that your stuff is stuff and everyone else's stuff is SHIT?" Started reading his sortabiography last night, Last Words. *sigh* I miss ya, Georgie. You were the cat's ass and the mutt's nuts.)
Anyhoo, back then most toys didn't have batteries. If it had batteries, it was special. This was especially true about dolls. Now, I had one of the very first Baby Alive dolls. This doll came out when I was about sevenish... we were living on Memorial Drive, so that would be about right... Yeah, the adult ADD is kicking in big time today. After being woken out of a sound sleep to pick Mum up from a fall at 2:30 a.m. and not getting back to sleep until 4... awake at half eight and having to wait for the bathroom for over 20 minutes while Idiot played with the water... argh. I needs a nap, Precioussss, I does.
ANYWAY... Baby Alive. Baby doll. Two D-cell batteries in a compartment in the back--a compartment, I might add, that had a catch to open it, NOT A FUCKING TINY SCREW! I mean, c'mon, people! What fucking moron of a jackass decided that EVERY FUCKING BATTERY DOOR ON THE PLANET should now be accessed only with a screwdriver? I want to find that $%^&*() and beat them over the head with a heavy child's toy, dammit, because a) WHY are you giving a child under the age of three something that requires batteries? Would you let the little fucker development some imagination, for the love of everything holy? and b) if the little anklebiter is TOO STUPID to know that they're NOT supposed to eat batteries AND YOU, as a PARENT are TOO STUPID to NOT teach them this, isn't it better that they're removed from the gene pool? This is called selective adaptation, and IT'S A GOOD THING.
EVOLVE, DAMN YOU!
OK, BABY ALIVE... 2 D-cell batteries, giving the damn doll some heft, blonde hair in that same stupid style every baby doll had at that point in history, the eyes opened and closed (which didn't require batteries), the mouth moved when you shoved the bottle or spoon in it, and you had to mix up the little special food packets with water, and ONLY put water in the bottle.
Mum was very clear about this. NOT juice--the baby didn't want juice, she could only drink water. DEFINITELY NOT Kool-Aid or Zarex, JUST WATER, LISA.
And then the magic happened! Because unlike other baby dolls that just tinkled, Baby Alive also crapped! Yes! And little mothers-in-training got to have the magical experience of changing a diaper at the age of seven, and cleaning up the little thing's bottom without Mum having to worry about the new REAL baby being dropped on its head.
In theory, this doll was a training tool--a gender-specific, gender-stereotype doll, meant to train little girls to grow up to be mommies, and darn good, conscientious mommies, too, who could mix up baby cereal and wipe a baby's ass the right way! What they didn't realize was that the doll was REALLY a catalyst for curiosity--how the hell did the poop get from the mouth to the bum? Baby Alive caused many an impromptu surgery, and I'm sure set many young girls on the path to proctology.
Baby Alive was as far as I went down the path of battery-operated dolls. I was lucky; I had the pre-talking one. I don't like dolls that talk; I mean, they're boring--limited phrases, no real expression on their faces... they're fucking creepy. Vacuous. CREEPY. Like, I just got a shiver up my neck thinking about it...
Now, my mother is just the opposite. She LOVES, LOVES, LOVES things that talk and dance--she thinks they're the bees knees, especially if the stupid thing is motion-activated. She has bought those goddamned things by the dozen. I won't allow 'em in the house. NO FUCKING WAY will I have some stupid triad of snowmen scaring the piss out of me (my bladder is over 40--it's possible) at 2:00 a.m. on my way to the bathroom, jumping up and down, singing horrid songs in tinny voices that pierce my eardrums. I made her take 'em into work--torture her co-workers, not me. She said to me, "What are you going to do when you have kids and I buy this stuff for my grandchildren?"
I gave her The Look. "One, you will NOT purchase that crap for any child that THIS body produces. My children will curse me and develop GOBS of imagination by playing with toys that require them to THINK and PLAY and possibly get dirty and even bloody. Two, if you DO ignore this edict, the SHIT STAYS AT YOUR HOUSE." She thinks I will be an evil parent.
I'm good with that.
Now, there is a legitimate reason I dislike these toys. See, I worked in a shop when the first dancing flowers came out in the late 80's--y'know, those stupid plastic daisies with the sunglasses on in the plastic pot that when you passed them, the music went off and they started bobbing insanely? And then came the gorillas...
Let me tell you, spend five days a week behind a counter in a gift and notions shop in a busy mall with lots of over-producing suburbanites dragging their maggoty houseapes in and leaving them to roam and destroy, and of course, with sub-par intelligence because hey, mum and dad bought a house built on subdivision built over a Superfund site... Yeah. And of course, the stupid things were RIDICULOUSLY overpriced because they were the Latest Thing, so after having to listen to TWENTY FIVE OF THE FUCKING THINGS GOING OFF OUT OF UNISON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! came the chorus of begging, whining, and screaming for one... Christ, even the memory gives me a headache.
To this day, if I walk into a store that has that kind of crap near the register, I freak out. Seriously.
Because the things are like, totally, possessed. There's no expression in the eyes, they just start reacting to motion and noise and movement... muttering inanities, or worse, Xmas songs...
Now, I'm cool (to a point) with the Halloween stuff. Scaring the piss out of someone for a laugh as a part of the holiday makes total sense to me. TOTAL sense. That's what Halloween is about. Any other holiday... Nah. Nope. No freakin' way. And the stuff out today... it's not like it was twenty, thirty years ago when it took big-ass batteries to run 'em. Now, they have tiny little button cells and solar panels and USB cords and microchips, and I have read enough science fiction to know that this is just a Very Bad Idea.
Now, I am a Science Retard. I get the basics--DNA, evolution, the importance of not fucking really close relations (not that I would, believe me), don't let the beams cross, and stay away from the big yellow triangle.
Ever think about that? The yellow radiation triangle? I wonder if the Jewish atomic scientists who escaped the Nazis did that on purpose--"Hey, Hitler, you think the Jews are badass, HAVE A DOSE OF THIS SHIT!"
I'm probably wrong about that, but it's a nice thought. It's like the fact that the Library of Congress classification system for scripture begins with the letters "BS." (THIS IS TRUE!)
Just makes me happy.
Mechanics I understand--insert Tab A into Slot B--it's just a slightly more complicated version of construction. Chemistry I'm good with, at least if it involves food--I understand those kind of chemical reactions. But hard science... Nah. Goes right over my head. Blonder than a Barbie doll when the conversation goes quantum, y'know?
And I am OK with this, believe or not. I know enough to get by and survive, and am confident enough that if the zombie apocalypse comes (or the vampire one, I can go either way), I can survive OK. I have Army manuals on improvised field munitions, know how to scrounge parts, and gimme a Chilton manual, and I can get damn near any vehicle built before 1985 going with a basic tool kit with a little trial and error. There is a reason I don't want to own a car built before 1985, and that's it--I can pop the hood on a 1983 Caprice and find the air filter and all the places to fill up the fluids; no computers, no automated locks or windows. Plus, the exposure to living history folks has shown me that a) I know how to build a fire and keep the fucker going (a very, very important and much underrated skill unless you're in the situation) and b) just as importantly, I can cook a damn good meal over one without burning myself OR the food. I get the basics of how a generator works and can find books in a library without a computer catalog. I can even write longhand, fairly legibly. And while I could never shoot my cat, I could be induced to barbecue a dog if nothing else was available--more meat on them, unless you're talking about the yappy rats too many people use as fashion accessories.
So I'm good. Where I get antsy is the whole robotics industry.
Now, yeah, I'm a Futurama fan, and honestly, knowing how the world functions, I think we're far more likely to develop robots a la Bender Bending Rodriguez, I still have a healthy fear born from seeing I, Robot, a gajillion clips of 2001, and reading a short story called "The Machine Stops" by E.M. Forster. Yes, I have read Heinlein's Future Histories and love Dora, Pallas Athene, Mycroft Holmes, and the lot; ditto for SolAce from Spider Robinson's Callahan's Chronicles. HOWEVER... robotic development is being sponsored by big corporations. The same big corporations who are poisoning the food supply, manipulating government and doing all kinds of bad things with our consumer acquiescence. (Yeah, I'm guilty, too. It's kinda why I'm cool about an apocalypse happening.) So... I don't trust automated thingies that talk and move on their own because one day, they're gonna make 'em too smart, and we won't be able to escape because they'll have hidden the weapons, locked down the cars, and it'll be the Matrix all over again.
I know this because I'm a Science Retard. And I'm good with that.
The Wikipedia article on "The Machine Stops" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Machine_Stops
The creepiest commercial for Baby Alive--I remember this one: